Here's the review in brief: haven't got any DS-owning friends or don't have an internet connection? Then Animal Crossing: Wild World just probably won't set your world on fire. If you do, then you're going to be spending an awful lot of time servicing a smarmy raccoon from this point on - trust us.
If you've played Animal Crossing's GameCube predecessor, then you'll have a fair idea what to expect here. The basic set-up's almost identical in this DS version - minus a few snips, trims and adjustments here and there. If you haven't, it goes something like this: you start the game, move into a randomly generated town, do some futile errands for town pimp Tom Nook (the aforementioned capitalist raccoon), wind up with a whacking mortgage and a house of your own.
THE SKY'S THE LIMIT
From there on in, what you do is pretty much entirely up to you. There's a set number of activities you can do each day - hunt for fossils, bugs, fish and paintings to donate to the museum (or flog to Nook to earn Bells to pay back some of that hefty mortgage), visit your town tailor (where you can pick up new threads or design your own), poke around Nook's shop for stuff to decorate your (ever-expanding) home with, chat to your animal neighbours or simply wander round town shaking trees into submission.
What give the game more lasting appeal, however, are the events hard-wired into Wild World's calendar. Given that it utilizes the DS's internal clock, you'll be able to enjoy things like the bi-monthly fishing tournament, flower and acorn festival, Bright Lights weeks, La-di-da Day (don't ask) and even weekly visits from a cast of characters including: the shady Red who stores rare items in his exclusive members-only tent; a Trinny & Suzanna-style fashion guru who'll rate your style; the turnip lady who'll hand over vegetables to trade on the daily Stalk Market and a wandering cat who regularly demands you draw her a new face. Of course, there's plenty more to see and do - which is the beauty of Animal Crossing as a concept.
A few concessions have been made for the DS version which old-hands might find a little perturbing. Firstly, the town has been shrunk down radically, with now only eight instead of the possible fifteen villagers to enjoy, areas have been removed (such as the police station and tip - with lost property and recycling now available at the town gate and town hall respectively), and of course, those tasty NES retro game treats have gone the way of the Dodo. Aside from that last one, which admittedly could be seen as a deal breaker if the focus this time around wasn't so deliberately skewed against traditional solo play, the changes are actually all welcome, managing to streamline your daily tasks, making them as pain-free as possible.
The most significant core changes though are the huge number of customization options now available - most specifically the ability to purchase various accessories, hats and shirts (meaning you can deck yourself out as everything from a fireman to Hitler, if you're creative). Secondly, there's a lot more going on in terms of your fellow villagers this time around - not only do they have far more to say (all of which is exceptionally well-written and generally hilarious), they'll foster relationships with each other, have conversations you can eavesdrop on, pass on gossip and even visit your house when you get to know them better (and threaten to burn it down if you miss your allotted appointment). All of which greatly enhances the illusion that you're co-habitating with living breathing creatures - and it's amazing how easy it is to become attached to your favourites. What's more, the fact that like the world of Animal Crossing itself, your neighbour roster is constantly changing, you'll inevitably be tossed into a slump of depression when you visit one of them only to find they're packed up and ready to high-tail it out of town (assuming you can't sweet talk them into staying, of course).